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Covid-19 impact and Doctoral Researchers

Professor Stephen Shute, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources)

On Monday 13 July, Pro Vice-Chancellor Stephen Shute wrote to all Postgraduate Researchers with an update in light of the Covid-19 situation. You can read the email below.

Dear Doctoral Researcher

I hope you have been keeping well since I was last in touch at the end of June. Today I want to provide a further update for our PGR community.

At the PGR Open Forum in June I announced £250,000 of new funding to support postgraduate researchers and you may remember this was also shared as a news story. During the online forum, and in the weeks since, I received feedback from some doctoral researchers about the allocation of the new funding we have made available. I have really listened to this feedback and have also consulted with colleagues in Schools. The focus of our considerations since has been to look at ways to try and support as many doctoral researchers as possible, who are in a variety of different circumstances.

As such, the University Executive Group (UEG) has agreed to a modification of the original proposal that will see a certain amount of the funding specifically allocated towards PGRs who have existing maintenance grants from the University. Going forward, the £250,000 will be allocated as follows:

£175,000 will go into the PGR Hardship Fund with distribution based on financial need. The maximum award payable from this Hardship Fund will usually be £3,500; and

£75,000 will be used to provide limited ring-fenced financial support for Covid-19-related scholarship extensions for those PGRs who have maintenance grants in whole or in part funded by the University of Sussex.

The former will be distributed by the Student Life Centre in the normal way. Decisions on how to allocate the latter sum will be made by a small group of academics, chaired by Professor George Kemenes, and with a membership consisting of one Director of Doctoral Studies from each of the four School clusters (Sciences; Social Sciences; Media, Arts and Humanities; and the Business School). George will be sharing information on this process soon.

Priority for both funds will be given to those nearing completion of their doctoral studies and who are experiencing time-limited interruptions to their work as a result of Covid-19. As mentioned previously, PGR students funded by UKRI and the Wellcome Trust are not eligible to apply for the funding outlined above.

Following the forum, there were some unanswered questions that I agreed to answer and publish. As I sought to address some immediate feedback on the fund, I decided to hold off on publishing those answers as it may have led to confusion. I’ll now aim to publish responses to those outstanding questions this week.

Finally, I’m pleased to share that the Doctoral School has launched a new community project to help connect Doctoral Researchers with the aim of creating groups that will provide you with ongoing peer support throughout your PhD. Staying in touch with other researchers can help combat isolation, provide motivation, and improve your wellbeing, as well as boost your research.

The project has been developed with Sussex PGR Claire Durrant, whose own group in ESW has proved invaluable, and includes Claire's guide and accompanying webinar on developing a successful support network. See the online PhD peer support groups webpage for more information and to fill out the short application form.

I would like to organise another forum in a few weeks’ time – and I will be back in touch with all the details.

All best wishes


Pro Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Shute

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Tuesday, 14 July 2020

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